Costa Mesa girls’ water polo tops rival Estancia, celebrates seniors

Costa Mesa's Dharma Andreas (4) shoots and scores during the Battle for the Bell girls' water polo game against Estancia.
Costa Mesa’s Dharma Andreas (4) shoots and scores during the Battle for the Bell girls’ water polo game against Estancia on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It has been quite a ride for the Costa Mesa High girls’ water polo senior class.

They mostly sat on the bench as freshmen as Mesa sprinted to its first CIF championship match in program history, though senior Dharma Andreas was the starting goalkeeper on that team.

They were not given an immediate chance to build on that run. The coronavirus pandemic struck a couple of weeks later.

“It was really hard having such a huge team freshman year and then going straight into COVID, where we were literally swimming each lane to ourselves to keep distance,” senior Aubree Jackson said. “I remember lining up for practice and literally being 6 feet apart, spaced out all around the pool deck. Going into junior year, it really reshaped our team and kind of brought more a sense of closeness and stability to all of our players. We felt so connected the next two years.”

As the Mustangs’ journey draws to a close, the six seniors hope for one more extended run in the postseason. They capped off the regular season with a 22-1 victory over crosstown rival Estancia on Tuesday in the Battle for the Bell match.

Costa Mesa's Kenzie Mora (2) knocks the ball away for a steal during Battle for the Bell girls' water polo game.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Seniors Mikaela Smith and Morgan Taylor each scored four goals as Costa Mesa (15-10, 4-0 in the Orange Coast League) won its fourth straight league title.

Smith notched four assists and four steals, and every senior contributed on senior day. Kenzie Mora had three goals and a team-best five steals, while Andreas and Jackson each scored twice. Senior Ella Bush also found the back of the net for the Mustangs.

“It’s been quite an experience,” said Smith, adding that she hopes to continue her career at Golden West College. “I don’t think I would ever trade it for anything. It’s been a great four years.”

Junior Addie Juelfs added three goals and three steals for Mesa, while junior Kennedy Walker and sophomores Sophia Winters and Abby Greene also scored. The Costa Mesa players let out yells of joy as Greene’s shot found the back of the net in the final minute of the match.

“She’s a great swimmer and plays good defense, but she has no scoring bone in her body,” said Mustangs coach Dustin Serrano. “We’ve been really trying to get her more confident in her shot.”

Junior goalkeepers Maggie Kirby and Kaitlyn Yagerlener combined for three saves for the winners. Andreas, who has been playing water polo for 12 years, trained them to play the position last year and has transitioned back into a field player.

“Getting back into swimming and getting the capacity, using my shoulders at a higher capacity, was very difficult,” Andreas said. “I ended up doing just fine. It didn’t feel too off, because I had been in the field for so long.”

Estancia's Rita Orduna looks for a shot against Costa Mesa during Tuesday's match.
Estancia’s Rita Orduna looks for a shot against Costa Mesa during Tuesday’s match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Senior Rita Orduna scored the goal for Estancia (4-17, 0-3), on a heave from near half-court. Orduna and her twin sister Aurora, who transferred from Costa Mesa, are the only seniors on a young Eagles team.

Not only that, but the twins are the only Estancia players with any experience prior to this year, coach Matt Frazier said. Last year, the Eagles did not field a team.

Goalkeeper Claudette Colindres made four saves for Estancia, and freshman Nataly Andriashvilli racked up five steals.

Costa Mesa's Addie Juelfs (8) shoots and scores during the Battle for the Bell girls' water polo game against Estancia.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Brand new,” Rita Orduna said with a smile. “We started new and I think we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve had our ups and downs as a team, like all teams do, but we always get through it. I think we do a great job as a team in general … We’ve grown into each other, like family.”

The Mustangs feel the same way and hope to make another deep CIF run in Division 3 to bookend the seniors’ time in the program. They are currently not ranked in the top 10, but Serrano said they have been ranked as high as No. 4 this season.

The playoff brackets will be released on Saturday morning.

“I feel like the group we have going right now and our skill sets, we know what to do,” Smith said. “The next week, all we have to do is just sharpen the knife. We’ll go in there and hopefully we can just go all the way through until the end.”

Costa Mesa's Mikaela Smith (18) shoots and scores during Battle for the Bell girls' water polo on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)


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